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Eight Key Canine Emotions and How to Identify Them

When we think of a happy dog, a few things may come to mind.  A wagging tail in excitement, cuddly, puppy eyes on the couch, or a furry ball of fur sprinting towards us after a long day at work — grinning ear to ear.

Now, what about a sad dog?

We might think back to every Sarah McLachlan commercial ever made. Of a defeated looking pup with droopy ears and sad eyes, or even a dog whimpering in fear during an intense thunderstorm.

Each of these examples begs the question: Do dogs experience multiple emotions similar to human beings?

When you first welcome home your new dog, your #1 priority as a dog owner is to make sure your pup feels loved, safe, and happy in its newfound home.

With humans, this need for reassurance and a close bond could easily be erased with a simple question or assessment of body language cues.

“Understanding your dog’s feelings goes a long way to build long-lasting relationships.”

However, with dogs, forming a harmonious rapport may deem challenging without a mutual language to interpret basic human emotions.

Fred Williams, a dog grooming expert and the owner of The Dog House Pet Salon explains, “Understanding what your pets are feeling can be a huge progression in building a long-lasting relationship between human beings and our canine buddies. Ears and tails are often the best emotional indicators.”

Here are some key canine emotions and tips to help identify them.


a happy dog

In this state, your dog’s ears are pointed upward, rather than forward. The tail will either be in a relaxed position or wagging back-and-forth. If when you come home, your pet starts zooming around the house, you can certainly say its delighted.


When your pup detects something unknown that could potentially pose a threat to you and your family, it immediately shifts into a flight-or-fight mode and faces the threat head-on. It adopts an alert stance with its ears pointing forward. If your dog is trying to listen to a specific sound, you may notice a slight twitch in its ears.


If your pet is not comfortable in its environment, it may display signs of anxiousness. Clear signs pointing to anxiousness include: avoiding eye contact, a stiff or lowered tail, or sweaty footprints along with the flattened ears and a raised paw.


Fear is conveyed in several ways for dogs. While sometimes it may cower or roll on its back to show signals of submission or total surrender; other times, it may growl, bark, or make licking actions. If your canine focuses on something with darting eyes and a tucked tail—you can rest assured, your pooch is afraid.

dog emotions and dog grooming


Often, dogs don’t feel comfortable meeting strangers because it makes them feel unsafe. They may demonstrate this by rolling on their backs with their paws pointed up in the air. People sometimes misinterpret this action as a dog wanting its belly rubbed, but don’t be fooled—petting the dog may only upset it further. But, dog grooming experts know better. 


In the face of danger, dogs try to make themselves look as large as possible. This anger can be recognized as fur standing up on a stiff body in such a scenario. They often look aggressive by opening their mouths to flash their bared teeth. Also, they may suddenly shift the majority of their body weight toward their front feet; appearing ready to lunge forward and strike at any given moment.


You can spot a relieved dog by its smoother, less stiff moments seen when angry. Tells of relaxation include the head moving lower, and the softening of the eyes.

“A wagging tail and softened face indicate a relieved expression of the dogs.”


Playful dogAll dog owners rejoice at the sight of this cheerful emotion! Be ready to get up and play when you see your dog seemingly “bow” down. You’ll see its front legs bent down, and bottom raised accompanied by a wagging tail. Another slightly obvious sign your pup is in a playful mood is when you see your dog bring over its toy in glee. Lastly, you can tell when your dog is in a playful stance, as it will often include excited barking and cheerful attacking and retreating.

So, to answer your question, yes—canines experience many of the emotions comparable to human emotions; the only difference lies in how we express those emotions.

We mean, wouldn’t it be a little strange to see a human growling at the door out of fear? Nonetheless, it is essential to recognize your pup’s body language cues they portray to show how they feel moment to moment. 

Hopefully, through better understanding your pet, you will be able to connect in a deeper, more meaningful way from this moment forward! Take help from our dog grooming professionals to know more. 

Our Dog Grooming Experts Help to Understand Your Pooch’s Emotions!

As industry professionals, our groomers at The Dog House Pet Salon can quickly assess the mental state of canines since we work extensively with all kinds of breeds. This shared connection enables us to effectively meet the grooming needs of our clients while making pets feel safe and at-ease.

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Eight Key Canine Emotions and How to Identify Them? / The Dog House Pet Salon – Houston, TX